10 Of The Best Tools for Book Bloggers
Want to write better blog posts? Are you trying to create more visually appealing graphics? Wrestling with scheduling social media promotion?
Whatever challenge you’re working on as a book blogger, the good news is that there are tools that will get you there.
The difficulty is sorting out the wheat from the chaff. There are thousands of these tools around, and more get created every year.
Some tools are more suited to a fully commercial business than a personal blog. Others can certainly help make you more efficient and productive but that comes at a price. And others are impressive but complex so the question is whether the reward is worth the effort you’d need to put in to learn the tool.
I’m going to try and make life easier for you by sharing the 10 tools I’ve found the most useful. I’m selecting only those that are free of charge.
Let’s start where all blog posts begin: with the headline. It’s the first thing your readers see so it’s worth investing some time to make it as interesting, appealing as possible.
1. Co–Schedule’s HeadLine Studio
This blogging tool quickly reviews your headline for length, use of keywords and sentiment and scores it on a scale of 0 to 100. Based on that first result you can play with the wording, length and order of words to see if you can get a higher score.
It’s a great way to test out different kinds of headlines. You can continue to play with combinations until you find one that works best.
Here’s what happened when I played with different options for this post:
The simplest headline “10 Tools For Book Bloggers” scored 54 but by adding just one word “best” I could bump that up to 68. Adding three more words took it to a more acceptable 75. One of the reasons the final version scored better is that blog posts with 6-13 word long headlines tend to get more views (Hubspot)
In addition to the overall score you get a breakdown of the components of the headline: the number of “emotional” and “power” words; use of common versus uncommon words for example.
The tool doesn’t tell you exactly what you should write. But it does give you a good feel for the effect of changing just one or two words. It’s free, and you can use it as much as you’d like.
You can upgrade if you want even more analysis but I’ve never found that necessary,
There are some headline analyser plug ins available for WordPress that do pretty much the same job as Co-Schedule but you need to have one of the paid WordPress packages to access these.
This is an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered writing assistant that will help you make sure you are using good grammar and spelling in your blog posts. When you install the Grammarly browser extension (compatible with WordPress) you’ll find that, as you type your content, the tool will detect and underline incorrect words or phrases.
Studies have shown that blog posts that contain graphics and images hold more appeal for readers than an ocean of text. An image of a book cover is an easy option for book review posts but if you are creating other types of content, you’ll want to go beyond this basic approach.
That’s where image libraries and graphic design tools come in.
Unsplash has a massive free stock photo library — 810,000+ photos from photographers around the world. If you’re looking for inspiration you can browse collections such as street photography or nature. If you already know the kind of image you want, just use their powerful search engine. Don’t forget to credit the photographer when you find the right image.
Even bigger than Unsplash, this photo library offers a phenomenal collection of 2.4m high quality images — making it my go-to option whenever I need a featured image or an in-content generic image. All contents are released under the Pixabay License, which means they can be used without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist.
A minnow compared to the other two providers but MyStockPhotos does have a good range of high quality images that would make interesting backgrounds. They are all licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose (personal use, some commercial use). They can be modified and shared without attribution.
One word of caution with all these sites. You might find some images labelled iStock. These are not free. They are sponsored images from the Getty library and are not free to use. Always check the permission rights of any image you want to use. You do not want to get a nasty surprise of a claim for breach of copyright.
Instead of relying on stock images, why not create your own graphics using one of the many free design tools?
You could use GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) which is an editing platform available for GNU/Linux, macOS, Windows and more operating systems. it gives you complete flexibility to create banners, social media posts and graphics for memes or reading projects. It has the same functionality as many versions of Photoshop but has one distinct advantage – it’s free.
However it’s not an intuitive programme and has more sophistication than I need so I’m going to recommend instead some simpler tools.
6. Canva is probably the best known tool on the web for creating unique images that you can use either in your blog posts or on social media. You can start with one of the templates depending on whether you want a Twitter or an Instagram image, a banner or an infographic, and then simply modify the colours/ text etc. Or you can begin with a completely blank canvas, pull in an image from their photo and background library (or use one from Unsplash, Pixabay) and away you go.
If you want to save time, create a graphic that you can use as your own template – that’s what I’ve done recently with the graphics for my book review posts and it’s saved me a ton of time.
The only thing that frustrates me about Canva is the lack of flexibility in changing the size of the graphic I’ve created. Say I create one to use in a blog post and want the same design for Pinterest, Canva won’t let me make the change — I have to start over again. There is a paid upgrade which would allow me to re-size the one graphic for use across social media platforms but I’m not willing to make that level of investment. The free version is more than enough for my needs right now.
Comment spam is a frustrating element of book blogging. If your blog posts are open for comments, sooner or later you’ll be targeted by spammers. You really don’t want this often malicious and salacious material visible on your site. it doesn’t inspire confidence among your readers if they see your site littered with rubbish and pornographic ‘contributions’.
So you need an anti spam filter. Ideally one that will automatically deal with the spam on your behalf.
This is installed on my site, quietly working in the background to check comments and contact form submissions against a global database of spam and blocking them from appearing on the blog. Sometimes it’s over zealous and blocks legitimate comments but that’s easily dealt with: you just open the “comments” admin interface, click on the “spam” tab and unblock any you think should have been permitted.
Akismet is free for paid WordPress sites and at a small fee for other blogs.
There are other steps you can take to minimise the number of spam comments — I’ll tackle that in a later post.
Whether you’ve been blogging for five months or five years, you’re likely to encounter the occasional problem. Where can you go to get help?
The WordPress site contains a lot of resources to help you build your blog, customise themes or connect social media platforms to your blog. Those resources do guide you through the basics but they’re not so good at dealing with specific technical issues.
For those, it’s best to take advantage of the Forum. You can post your problem and get an answer from another WordPress user or one of the technical team members at WordPress itself. If you have a self hosted plan, there is a different forum at https://wordpress.org/support/forums/.
But don’t worry, if you post in the wrong place, someone will help to redirect you.
9. WordPress Chat
If you need more rapid help, you can do a live chat session with one of the WordPress “Happiness Engineers” (don’t groan, I didn’t come up with their job title!). To do this, log into WordPress.com and click on the blue and white ? icon in the lower right corner. This will take you to all of the Help resources. Then, click the Contact Us button. Type your question in the box under “How can we help?” and press Chat to begin the chat session. Or just click this link to go direct to the Contact Us page.
I’ve used this service a few times when I was trying to change to a new theme and had a good response. On a separate occasion the technical support person couldn’t fix the problem immediately but gave me a work around and then logged the problem for further action. A good experience in all.
Creating and publishing great content is only one aspect of blogging. The most rewarding element for me is the interaction with other bloggers. Blogging is after all a form of social media. I follow about 150 book blogs so need an efficient system to keep track of new posts. I used to get all the alerts of new posts coming into my email inbox but now prefer to use a feed reader.
There are a few of these around. You’ll see them variously described as feed readers or RSS readers. Some are web based, others are available as apps that work across multiple devices.
My choice is Feedly, a web based platform which integrates with an app on my phone and iPad. I use it to follow blogs but you can also add podcasts, newsletters, Twitter feeds and You Tube videos. Each source can be assigned to a category (Feedly calls these ‘boards’ and also ‘feeds’) .
Using the tool is simple once you’re set up. The main dashboard will show you what’s new “Today” and there is a side panel (shown left) that indicates how many pending items there are in each feed.
You can also click on any of the individual sources or a board.
It’s easier to use than the WordPress reader because once you’ve read an item, it is cleared from the screen and you can also delete items en bloc. So if you get behind with any of the feeds, you can simply choose to delete items older than a day or older than a week.
There is a paid version which gives you scope to add more sources, add notes to content, and highlight important passages but I’ve found the free version more than adequate for my needs.
In the next few months I’m going to try out a few other service providers like Innoreader purely in the interests of comparison. I’ll report back on my experience.
What tools do you find essential aids to your life as a book blogger? Do let me know by leaving a comment below. If you’re looking for other tips on book blogging or how to use WordPress, check out all the articles in my A2Z Of Book Blogging.
29 thoughts on “10 Of The Best Tools for Book Bloggers”
Thanks for this post Karen, and all the great blogging ideas posts before it. I have two immediate problems that I’ve been waiting for time to deal with, with the happiness engineers. One is to do with making hops within a long post (from a summary line down to a section or chapter); and the other is an issue with my phone preventing me from updating my work blog on the fly.
Hi Bill, I can’t help with the phone problem sorry 🙂 but to answer your question about creating “hops”, I’ve found a website that explains what to do – https://wpmudev.com/blog/link-to-any-spot-in-a-wordpress-post-with-page-jumps-bookmarks/. You will need to use what are called bookmarks, To create them you have to use some html coding. I’ve tried it a few times but every time WP throws up a problem. Hope you have better luck
Thanks Karen. The Happiness Engineers want me to make sure first I have the latest version of Firefox. I worked today but I have the next 2 or 3 days off so I’ll sort that problem out with them, and try out your link for ‘hops’, and then report back.
Let me know how it goes – I could use the technique when I do long “how to” posts
Karen, the Happiness Engineers were right about the latest version of Firefox, and they’ve given me some tips about other stuff (to do with having separate accounts for my work blog and my lit.blog).
The ‘jumps’ code worked perfectly. Thank you! My Page, ‘The Independent Woman’, has 16,000 words over 6 Chapters and a Bibliography. I can now jump to each Chapter from the Table of Contents, and ‘Return to Top’ like a pro.
Just looked at your page – I’m impressed you were able to figure out the coding. I’ve not done much coding myself – it always looks daunting but once you get into it, there is a logic
I’m glad you mentioned Feedly. It’s my preferred platform to track all the blogs I follow mostly blogs there and have created days of the week folders so that I don’t get overwhelmed by the number of unread posts, but it does mean that it can be a week before I get to some posts and bloggers.
I haven’t had a spam issue since moving to WP, but it was pretty horrendous on Blogger.
I remember you sharing info about how you use Feedly to manage all the blogs you follow. I’ve been cutting down on the number because the sheer volume of daily updates is overwhelming.
I do the same every now and again
I know one blogger who sets a limit of following no more than 150 blogs and is quite ruthless about removing people who never reacto to any comments he leaves on their site
Akismet seems to work very well which is a relief. Spam comments are so irritating. However a little while ago I started getting so many spam email signups that I deleted my email widget. (Nobody legit seemed to be signing up anyway). I wonder if there’s a similar way to block those.
With graphics, I have tried Canva, but I find it a bit awkward. I think I prefer a non-web-based design program. I recently bought Affinity Photo / Designer / Publisher to replace super-expensive Adobe products, and I’ve been pleased with those.
For images, aside from the photo sites you mention, I used to use an art gallery site called The Atheneum but it suddenly disappeared. I would love to find an alternative for that one!
I’ve not heard of problems with e mail sign ups. If you had problems with the widget perhaps it would be worth trying a different widget? I would also ask on the WP forum for any suggestions.
I’ve not heard of the Affinity programme – shall have to look into that since Adobe is too expensive to keep updating so my version of Photoshop is now quite senile.
An art related resource? Quite tricky to find one where the images are copyright free I would imagine.
Such a useful post Karen. I use Pic Monkey for my graphics but am going to have a look at Canva now too.
I tried Pic Monkey but didn’t find it intuitive
This is wonderful info. I’m going to include the link to this article in my reading gazette.
Thank you for that – very kind of you
i have a free WP site and the spam blocker works almost perfectly. It almost never lets spam through and it’s very rare for it to block a legitimate comment. I think it’s Akismet – it certainly used to be but since they changed the Admin page it doesn’t seem to tell us any more.
Thank you for such a fabulously useful post. I generally use my own photos, but there are definitely times when a stock image would be useful. Feedly also looks like something I ought to have a look at, too. Somehow I have a free version of Akismet installed on my free WordPress blog. I don’t know if I just happen to have been lucky and it was still in Beta when I joined or if they’ve made a mistake, but it’s doing a great job of catching the spam.
Excellent information! I love Canva templates but I’m finding their free images are becoming more limited. So often I hop over to Unsplash or Puxabay to find an image and then use it in Canva. I wish Canva had the option of saving in jpeg because it takes more steps to compress the image. I love grammarly but, for me, it slows down WP. It bugged me at first but now I’m used to it I guess! I need to try out the headline tool! Yes, the amount of spam is overwhelming and I’m thankful for the filter!
Canva does give you the ability to download to jpeg – when you click on the download arrow, you get a drop down menu and can change from the default png to jpeg
Oh that’s good to know! 🙌 thanks!
How interesting that there is a tool to “rate” your headline. I’m curious what data they collect in order to fund their free services (I use a lot of the other tools here, so it’s not that I’m not willing to trade for services, but I can’t even guess at this one’s value to the creators because a headline seems such a small thing for them to garner information from!). Unsplash and Pixabay are both favourites of mine, the latter having vectors is a particular benefit (not available at Unsplash, AFAIK) and Canva is handy (although, like you, I find the parts I most want are part of the paid package–fair enough).
The headline analyser is only a small part of the service offerings from Co-shedule and of course they really want you to buy the premium service because that’s where they generate income.
Hey there. So glad I found your post so helpful. I’m wondering if you could suggest a resource for book cover images. Do you have to contact every publisher for those? Thanks in advance!
Strictly speaking there are no sources that you can use without breaking copyright laws. So you would have to ask the publisher for the image each time or create your own image by photographing the cover (like those you see on Instagram). But in practice we all get an image from Amazon, Goodreads or the publishers web pages. The publishers turn a blind eye to this because it’s all free exposure for them,
Excellent post, Karen. I’ve used Akismet since setting up my blog. It’s trapped all but the cleverest spammers, easily weeded out manually on the rare occasions they do get through. I’ve had dealings with the Happiness Engineers (poor them!) who are both efficient and helpful.
I have another blog which is just the basic free service so doesn’t have the ability to use plugs in and the volume of spam I get (especially from Russia) is horrendous. Easily 50 comments a day
Blimey! The worst I get is a complimentry comment with a link you wouldn’t want to click which goes straight in the bin. Wordfence fends off a lot of attacks, too.
The rubbish these people put in the comments are astonishing…..